Mental Health Advocacy and Living with Bipolar Disorder, with Kelly Aiello
If you live with a mental illness, or help support someone who lives with any type of mental illness, you know exactly what it’s like to be on the front lines, dealing with the every day struggles that come with things like Bipolar, DID, Depression, Anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, Eating Disorders, and more.
You aren’t always able to put a positive spin on what’s going on in your life, and it’s certainly not anything that you can sugar coat. It is what it is, a daily struggle to overcome something that you didn’t ask for that was often times brought on by a traumatic past. It’s trying to live as much of a regular life as you possibly can, in the face of tremendous adversity.
Kelly Aiello joins me for a chat about these very topics: living with Bipolar Disorder, being a Mental Health advocate, and the importance of “telling it like it is” when it comes to living with mental illness.
Kelly is a contributor for The Mighty as well as blogger, student, wife, artist and activist. She writes primarily about mental health issues and has currently returned to school to study neuropsychology. She has bipolar type I disorder and borderline personality disorder, and lives with her husband and way too many cats in Toronto, Canada. You can learn more about her by visiting KellyJAiello.ca , including her upcoming novel and maybe send her a message and find out just how many cats she has 🙂
I originally connected with Kelly on a roundtable discussion coordinated by our mutual friend, author, and advocate Rebecca Lombardo. After that talk, I knew that I wanted to bring her onto the Beyond Your Past Podcast, to learn more about her life and advocacy work.
Kelly shares openly about her life and struggles with Bipolar Disorder, and paints the picture in a very real, authentic way. She talks about the particular spectrum, or level, that she lives with and also the difficulty that she experienced in finally getting the proper diagnosis. There are generally 4 levels of Bipolar Disorder, as outlined here courtesy of NIMH:*
- Bipolar I Disorder— defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depression and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.
- Bipolar II Disorder— defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes described above.
- Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia)— defined by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms as well numerous periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.
- Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders— defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the three categories listed above.
The problem, as we discuss, is that not every person fits nice and neatly into one of the 4 defined categories. Therein lies the struggle, even with someone who is knowledgeable, in getting the proper diagnosis. Similarly to Dissociation, you don’t always have the symptoms of just 1 particular type of Bipolar Disorder. As Kelly shares, it can take years to get the right treatment plan in place; and that’s an incredible struggle for the person going through it and for those that help support them in their healing journey.
We also talk about her work in advocacy and the importance of sharing what really happens in daily life. Living with a mental illness has become quite a mainstream topic these days, which is good in some ways and not so good in others. The awareness is always a good thing; I think most of us would agree that anything that helps destigmatize mental health challenges is a positive.
One of the problems is though that you can’t always put a positive spin on it; which is what some of the advocacy groups that Kelly has tried to work with, attempt to do. The tough days when you struggle to get out of bed, to get a shower, and go to work when you’d rather just stay in bed or curl up in a ball in the corner of your room waiting for the emotional struggle of a trigger to pass. Being a survivor of trauma and living with Bipolar or any other mental illness isn’t about something positive all the time..it’s many times just about just trying to make it through the day.
When you share in this real and vulnerable way, you reach an audience that would otherwise feel like they are completely alone.
Kelly also shares some tips and insight on what she’s learned in the areas of self-care, which also equates to self-love, as you’ll hear her explain. She talks about the importance of setting up a schedule in advance, that you can refer too on a day that you struggle, so you’re prepared ahead of time and have a plan in place to take care of yourself and celebrate each win that day.
We cover these topics and the importance of a support system, reaching out for help and not being ashamed to do so, as well as the community of survivors online that have helped Kelly, and myself, and millions of survivors across the world to feel like they are understood, loved, and appreciated for who they are, regardless of what they struggle with.
You can also contact her directly, via email: Contact@KellyJAiello.ca
-Matthew Pappas, CLC
If you’d like more information on working with a certified life coach, or if you have questions about how working with a life coach might be right for you… go for it and schedule your free intro session! Always remember, You Are Worth It, and there is hope for moving forward from what holds you back.
This post and podcast is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, mental health counseling, diagnosis, or treatment.
*Source – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml